Last week, the World Economic Forum on Latin America took place in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Latin American and global leaders of government, business, farmers’ associations, international organisations and civil society gathered to discuss the future of the contient. More than 70 countries were represented, and agriculture featured high on the agenda.
The Latin America and Caribbean region produces 14% of world agricultural exports, including corn, soybeans, beef and poultry. It is also home to one-third of the land that is suitable for sustainable agricultural expansion due to its high agro-ecological potential, low population density and non-forested status (World Bank, April 2012). These opportunities also come with great challenges, such as the need to improve infrastructure and distribution methods to expand rural communities’ access to markets and the adoption of resource-efficient practices to overcome challenges of water scarcity and climate change. Such issues were amongst those discussed during the forum last week.
Juan Carlos Cortéz Garcia, President of the Mexican National Agriculture Council (CNA) chaired a panel event entitled: “How are new models of collaboration and innovation driving investment in food production and distribution?” He commented:
Climate change has had a huge impact. Mexico has been affected by droughts and frosts in successive years, which has had a devastating effect on food production. Export policies in certain countries are also an issue; when they are under pressure through having low supplies they change their exports policies, which has an adverse effect on food prices. We need a new approach, a new vision, a new way to confront these challenges that we were not experiencing a few years ago.
Speakers at the panel discussion exchanged regional best practices on food security as well as talking about empowering smallholder farmers and establishing new mechanisms and partnerships.
Julio Cesar De Toledo Piza Neto, Chief Executive Officer, BrasilAgro spoke about the need to balance out the food value chain in order to create a fair environment for smallholder farmers. He commented on the need for sufficient access to markets, inputs and financing for smallholder farmers.
We need to make sure there is a competitive market in terms of providing resources for smallholder farmers (…) so they are not squeezed.
A new report was also launched at the forum, entitled “Putting the New Vision for Agriculture into Action: A Transformation Is Happening”, written by the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture Initiative in collaboration with McKinsey & Company.
The report argues that the food system presents a major development opportunity in a time of crisis. It sets out three goals that it believes can be achieved by rethinking agriculture: economic growth and opportunity, improved food security and nutrition and environmental sustainability. The report sets goals of 20% improvement per decade on each of these three areas.
To achieve the transformative change the New Vision for Agriculture initiative seeks, they recommend sparking a “virtuous cycle” of increasing skill and investment in the food system. The report details a number of case studies that are showing how such changes can be achieved through multi-stakeholder partnerships, and highlights six essential steps towards success. These are:
- Leadership and alignment of stakeholders around shared goals
- A clear strategy and priorities for implementing the transformation
- A network of entrepreneurs, innovators and investors
- Enabling hard and soft infrastructure policies and investments
- Catalytic financing and risk management
- Robust mechanisms and institutions for delivery, implementation and durability
Download the full report here.
Watch the full panel discussion on food production and distribution here.